City Landmark – Hazrat Chirag Dehli Shrine in Winter, South Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The air is windier than elsewhere in the city. The cold too is colder. With its vast courtyard, and its many trees, the sufi shrine of Hazrat Chirag Dehli is one of the most ideal places in the city to experience the Delhi winter.
Some might find it a cruel joke to be recommended in this bitter cold to go to a place to feel the intensity of this bitter cold. The idea appears more tolerable on considering the fact that the Delhi winter is like the summer of Shakespeare’s England whose “lease hath all too short a date.” The city’s extreme cold is too brief. The looming heatwave is so much more intense and lasts so long that this fleeting interlude of cold then feels like a myth.
To be sure, Delhi’s wild ridges, tree-lined avenues and many gardens can give a more bone-chilling taste of the thandi, but this south Delhi site is extraordinary for its unlikely setting. It is nestled in the heart of the crowded cramped historic enclave of Chirag Delhi village. You walk past a procession of houses, groceries, chai shops, vegetable carts, beauty parlours and small showrooms to reach the destination. On entering, an abrupt drop in the temperature is instantly felt.
This evening, it is only six, but is feeling like midnight here. The cold has turned the courtyard’s marble flooring into blocks of ice. Only a handful of people are present, praying silently. In a far-flung corner, a few of the dargah’s caretakers, who live within the complex, are sitting around a small bonfire. In some time, a gigantic neem tree in the compound becomes half invisible. The icy fog is settling into the courtyard. It is time to move out into the warmth of the exteriors.
Sufism in winter